WALLE, a Disney movie released in 2008, is perhaps one of the films that best reflects how the earth will be in the future if human beings continue upholding the same lifestyle.
It is undeniable that since the industrial revolution, there have been significant advancements which have ensured better conditions in nutrition, hygiene, and medicine, and therefore a greater life expectancy. In addition, other inventions have facilitated some of the tasks that were challenging for our ancestors, such as machinery for operation in the field, vehicles as a means of transport, and mobile devices that make possible communication.
However, new consumer habits and rapid population growth have caused one of the most sensitive problems we face today: the excessive generation of waste. According to the World Bank, around 2.010 million tons of urban solid waste were generated during 2016. This is an exorbitant figure, which generates more concern when considering the participation of the methods of its disposal worldwide. Around 37% of waste is deposited in sanitary landfills, 33% in open landfills, 19% is recovered through compost and recycling and the remaining 11% is treated by plants heat treatment or incinerators.
Waste discarded in open dumps and landfills that do not have an adequate gas collection system, cause the emission of greenhouse gases and consequently climate change. For its part, waste deposited in the sea is causing the extinction of species and negative effects on human health due to the consumption of microplastics.
It is true that waste has been present since the beginning of the development of human civilization. However, in ancient times, the largest proportion of the waste generated was organic which means that it was deposited on the ground and decomposed easily. In contrast, most of the waste produced in modern society takes long periods of time to biodegrade. For example, a plastic bottle can take between 450 and 1,000 years to decompose, plastic cutlery 400 years, and disposable masks 450 years. While other materials such as Styrofoam © (The white material that is usually used in boxes to protect delicate products such as computers and televisions and is also used to pack food and beverages) and Tinfoil cannot decompose due to their chemical characteristics and will remain in the landfills forever.
Faced with this situation, different movements have appeared, such as the “Zero Waste” ideology that is based on the conservation of all resources through responsible consumption and environmentally friendly production processes. The principles established in this approach can be visualized in the Zero Waste hierarchy:
Many people tend to think that recycling is the main solution to this environmental problem. However, recycling is not the answer to solve the waste crisis considering the efforts required for this process, such as the use of new resources, the consumption of water and energy, transportation, packaging and so on. Although recycling is part of the solution, it cannot be an excuse to ignore the underlying problem: OVERCONSUMPTION.
On the other hand, not all packaging or items that are considered recyclable or have this symbol
are able to be recycled because each local government has its own recycling system.
Waste management in each city varies according to the technology available in the sorting plants and the needs of the companies to which the material is sold.
For this reason, every citizen should take the time to educate themselves on the particularities of the waste management program of their city.
BE PART OF THE SOLUTION!
According to information reported by the World Bank, North America is the region with the highest generation of garbage per capita. In 2016, the total garbage generated was 289 million tons, with an average of 2.21 kilograms per capita per day. The good news is that public and private actions are being generated to solve the environmental crisis generated by waste. For example, Montreal is implementing a plan with the objective of being a zero-waste city by 2030.
IT SOUNDS IMPOSSIBLE BUT IT IS POSSIBLE!
Kamikatsu is a small city located in Japan that is listed as the world’s first zero-waste municipality. Sweden is another successful example in the field of waste management through an innovative waste-to-energy (WTE) program. This system has been so successful that the country has begun to import waste from other regions.
In both cases, one of the greatest factors that has allowed this environmental revolution is the commitment of each citizen.
BE PART OF ZERO WASTE REVOLUTION
Here are some recommendations that you can implement to be part of the change:
- Rethink and redesign: Open your mind and apply changes in the way that you consume. Choose eco-friendly products and options that reduce waste. Vrac & Bocaux, Loco, and Megavrac, are just a few of the zero-waste grocery stores in Montreal.
- Refuse: Refuse to use items that are not necessary such as single-use plastic.
- Reduce: Whenever you go to consume something, think if it is really necessary. Think about the resources that had to be used in its manufacture and the destination that it will have after being used.
- Check your city’s waste program to find out what can be recycled.
- Download the APP: Ça va où? This will help you clarify the bin in which each item should go.
- Identify the Ecocenter closest to your home, to bring there electrical objects, clothes in good condition, construction materials and Hazard materials.
5. Composting: If the collection of organic waste is not available in your neighborhood, you can take the material to the community composters or dare to use it in your own garden.
The garbage crisis is a reality that is causing irreversible damage to the environment. A big part of the solution is to have a responsible consumption, incorporate environmentally friendly habits, and be aware that every decision you make in your daily routine counts!